Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Campaign Cash

State Teachers’ Union Still Has Clout

Its membership more than cut in half, but still one of biggest donors to Democratic candidates.

By - Aug 3rd, 2019 01:38 pm
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Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Though sharply hobbled by a GOP anti-union law known as Act 10, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) remains among the top special interest campaign contributors to Democrats and liberal candidates in state elections.

Act 10, which public unions have argued was intended to decimate the political power of unions, cut WEAC’s membership and dues income. WEAC had 98,000 members before Act 10, now it has less than half of that.

Here’s a snapshot of some of WEAC’s activities and spending after Act 10 was signed into law in March 2011:

In 2018, contributions from the union’s main political action committee, WEAC PAC, topped all special interest PAC contributors at $312,675. And WEAC PAC contributions between January 2011 and December 2018 totaled just over $736,000 – second only to the $749,000 doled out by the Wisconsin Realtors Association’s PAC. Top recipients of WEAC PAC contributions from January 2011 through December 2018 were:

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, $86,000;

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, $44,000;

Former Democratic candidates for governor Mary Burke and Kathleen Falk, $43,128 each;

Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, $29,000.

In addition to contributions from WEAC PAC, about 40 other national, regional, and local teacher’s union PACs affiliated with WEAC doled out more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions between January 2011 and December 2018. That included about $380,000 in 2018.

Although WEAC’s direct outside election spending has dried up in recent election cycles, the union is still directing tidy sums to other groups to support Democratic candidates. WEAC’s direct outside election spending from its PAC and corporation totaled more than $2.9 million since January 2010, but almost all of that direct spending occurred from 2010 through 2013. WEAC funneled more than $6.2 million since January 2011 to 527 organizations and outside electioneering groups that made reported independent expenditures. That included more than $1.2 million in 2018 and 2019.

Like its direct outside election spending, WEAC’s lobby spending has fallen sharply in the past eight years. From 2011 through 2018, WEAC spent more than $2.6 million on lobbying, but the bulk of that – more than $2.3 million – was spent in the 2011-12 legislative session. And before 2010 when former Republican Gov. Scott Walker was elected and the GOP took over the legislature, WEAC was regularly among the top spenders on lobbying.

During the last 2017-18 session, WEAC didn’t lobby at all. The union started lobbying again during the current 2019-20 legislative session as the GOP-controlled legislature worked on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s proposed state budget.

Last month, Evers signed a 2019-21 state budget into law after making about 80 vetoes. The budget was sharply changed from his original proposal by the GOP-controlled legislature. Evers original budget called for an additional $1.4 billion in education spending, but that was cut by about two-thirds. Evers used his veto pen to increased education spending by about $570 million over the next two years.

WEAC president Ron Martin said the budget made “important investments in public schools, but this is only a down payment on what it will take to restore public education and democracy.”

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